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    Walk Like a Warrior

    Eighteen-year-old Emma faithfully talks about Jesus on social media, even though bullies have criticized her joy and enthusiastic love for Christ. Some have attacked her with remarks about her physical appearance. Others have suggested a lack of intelligence because of her devotion to God. Though the unkind words cut deep into Emma’s heart, she continues to spread the gospel with bold faith and love for Jesus and others. Sometimes, though, she’s tempted to believe her identity and worth are determined by the criticism of others. When that happens, she asks God for help, prays for her persecutors, meditates on the…

    The Main Actor

    I once heard about a student taking a class in preaching at a prominent seminary. The student, a young man who was a bit full of himself, delivered his sermon with eloquence and evident passion. He sat down self-satisfied, and the professor paused a moment before responding. “That was a powerful sermon,” he said. “It was well-organized and moving. The only problem is that God was not the subject of a single one of your sentences.”

    The professor highlighted a problem all of us struggle with at times: We can talk as if we’re the primary actor (emphasizing what we do,…

    Hang in There

    My father-in-law turned seventy-eight recently, and during our family gathering to honor him, someone asked him, “What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your life so far?” His answer? “Hang in there.”   

    Hang in there. It might be tempting to dismiss those words as simplistic. But my father-in-law wasn’t promoting blind optimism or positive thinking. He spoke those words as someone who’d endured tough things in his eight decades. His determination to press on wasn’t grounded in some vague hope that things might get better, but in Christ’s work in his life.  

    “Hanging in there”—the Bible calls it perseverance—isn’t possible…

    Shelter from the Storm

    As the story goes, in 1763, a young minister, traveling on a cliffside road in Somerset, England, ducked into a cave to escape the flashes of lightning and pounding rain. As he looked out at Cheddar Gorge, he pondered the gift of finding shelter and peace in God. Waiting there, he began to write a hymn, “Rock of Ages,” with its memorable opening lines: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”

    We don’t know if Augustus Toplady thought about Moses’s experience in the cleft of a rock while writing the hymn (Exodus 33:22), but perhaps he…

    Trust Your Armor

    As a young writer I was often unsure of myself when I was in writing workshops. I would look around and see rooms filled with giants, if you will—people with formal training or years of experience. I had neither. But what I did have was an ear formed by the language and tone and cadences of the King James Version of the Bible. It was very much my armor, so to speak, what I was used to, and allowing it to inform my writing style and voice has become a joy to me, and I hope to others.

    We don’t get…

    He Calms the Storms

    Jim was frantically sharing about problems he was encountering with his work team: division, judgmental attitudes, and misunderstandings. After an hour of patiently listening to his concerns, I suggested, “Let’s ask Jesus what He would have us do in this situation.” We sat quietly for five minutes. Then something amazing happened. We both felt God’s peace cover us like a blanket. We were more relaxed as we experienced God’s presence and guidance, and we felt confident to wade back into the difficulties.

    Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, needed God’s presence. One night he and the other disciples were sailing across the…

    Faith-Stand

    Desmond Doss was drafted into World War II as a non-combatant. Though his religious beliefs prevented him from carrying a gun, Doss ably served as a combat medic. In one battle, he withstood intense and repeated enemy fire to pull seventy-five soldiers in his unit to safety after they had been injured. His story is told in the documentary, The Conscientious Objector and dramatized in the film Hacksaw Ridge.

    A roll call of the heroes of Christian faith includes such courageous characters as Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Peter, and Paul. Yet there are some unsung heroes like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus,…

    A Shield Around Me

    Our church experienced an agonizing loss when Paul, our gifted worship minister, died at the age of thirty-one in a boating accident. Paul and his wife DuRhonda were no strangers to pain; they had buried several children who hadn’t made it to term. Now there would be another grave near the small graves of these little ones. The life-crushing crisis this family experienced hit those who loved them like a knockout blow to the head.

    David was no stranger to personal and family crises. In Psalm 3, he found himself overwhelmed because of the rebellion of his son Absalom. Rather than…

    Whatever We Do

    In Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis confessed he came to Christianity at the age of thirty-three, “kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape.” Despite Lewis’s own personal resistance, his shortcomings, and the obstacles he faced, the Lord transformed him into a courageous and creative apologist. Lewis proclaimed God’s truth and love through writing powerful essays and novels that are still being read, studied, and shared more than fifty-five years after his death. His life reflected his belief that a person is “never too old to set another goal or dream a new…

    Great Things!

    On November 9, 1989, the world was astonished by the news of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The wall that had divided Berlin, Germany, was coming down and the city that had been divided for twenty-eight years would be united again. Though the epicenter of joy was Germany, an onlooking world shared in the exuberance. Something great had taken place!

    When Israel returned to her homeland in 538 bc after being exiled for almost seventy years, it was also momentous. Psalm 126 begins with an over-the-shoulder look at that joy-filled time in the history of Israel. The experience was marked…

    Surprised by Wisdom

    “It seems like the older I get, the wiser you become. Sometimes when I talk to my son I even hear your words coming out of my mouth!”

    My daughter’s candor made me laugh. I felt the same way about my parents and frequently found myself using their words as I raised my kids. Once I became a dad, my perspective on my parents’ wisdom changed. What I once “wrote off” as foolishness turned out to be far wiser than I had thought—I just couldn’t see it at first.

    The Bible teaches that “the foolishness of God is wiser” than the cleverest human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:25). “For…

    You Have to Relax!

    “You must relax,” pronounces a doctor crisply in Disney’s Rescuers Down Under, attempting to treat the injured albatross Wilbur, a reluctant patient. “Relax? I am relaxed!” a (clearly not relaxed) Wilbur responds sarcastically as his panic grows. “If I were any more relaxed, I’d be dead!”

    Can you relate? In light of the doctor’s dubious methods (such as a chainsaw dubbed an “epidermal tissue disruptor”), Wilbur’s misgivings seem justified. But the scene is funny because it captures how we tend to feel when we’re panicking—whether or not what we’re facing is actually life-threatening.

    When we’re terrified, encouragement to relax can feel ridiculous. I…

    Spiritually Exhausted?

    “Emotionally, we’ve sometimes worked a full day in one hour,” Zack Eswine writes in his book The Imperfect Pastor. Although he was referring specifically to the burdens pastors frequently carry, this is true for any of us. Weighty emotions and responsibilities can leave us physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. And all we want to do is sleep.

    In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah found himself in a situation where he was depleted in every way. We read that Queen Jezebel threatened to put him to death (vv. 1–2) after she discovered he had the prophets of Baal killed (see 1 Kings…

    The Illusion of Control

    Ellen Langer’s 1975 study titled The Illusion of Control examined the level of influence we exert over life’s events. She found that we overestimate our degree of control in most situations. The study also demonstrated how reality nearly always shatters our illusion of control.

    Langer’s conclusions are supported by experiments carried out by others since the study was published. However, James had identified the phenomenon long before she named it. In James 4, the apostle wrote, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’…

    “Though”

    The opportunity to help people in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 took a group I was a part of to Houston. Our goal was to encourage people who had been impacted by the storm. In the process, our own faith was challenged and strengthened as we stood with them in church buildings and homes that were damaged.

    The radiant faith exhibited by a number of these people in wake of Harvey is what we see expressed by the prophet Habakkuk at the end of his seventh-century bc prophecy. Habakkuk predicted that tough times were on the way (1:5—2:1); things would…

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